cen·te·nar·i·an: 4. A first-hand maker or witness of the history that shapes and divides us.
The next stop in our quest brings us to Civil Rights Icon, Garth Reeves Sr. Our full journey with Mr. Reeves will be available soon.
GARTH'S KEYS TO LIFE PRESENTED BY NEWMEMORY
Stand up for the things you believe in.
Don't just be an observer of history—be part of it.
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Bind together. Love one another.
GARTH C. REEVES SR.
Garth C. Reeves Sr. was the son of Henry E. Sigismund Reeves, the original publisher of The Miami Times, a “race tabloid” Henry started in 1923 that specifically catered to south Florida’s Black community. In fact, the only job that Garth had ever held beside his time in the segregated United States Army was with his father’s publication, where Garth worked until he retired in 1994. The Miami Times is where Garth began his FIGHT against the inequality he’d experienced since coming to the United States, telling the stories of the Civil Rights Movement from the perspective of the Black community. He inherited the paper after his father’s passing in 1970.
As a writer and reporter, Garth was able to take a front-row seat to history, but it wasn’t enough for him to simply sit back and watch. Instead, Mr. Reeves decided to ACT on the injustices that he’d experienced firsthand and USE HIS PLATFORM to elevate and legitimize the experiences of Black people. Perhaps it is these STORIES, both lived and recalled in his writing, that gave Mr. Reeves the push to live past 100. He spent his life trying to spread TRUTH in a time when voices like his were so often silenced.
A staunch supporter of the Civil Rights Movement, Mr. Reeves reported on the movement in his periodical faithfully. When writing about the protests against police brutality that swept across Florida in the 1990’s, Garth chose to use terms like “rebellion” and “protest,” rather than calling them “riots” as many papers of the time were. “For many, the Miami Times became the conscience of the black community,” Dorothy Jenkins Fields, the founder of the Black Archives History and Research Foundation of South Florida, wrote. “He was not afraid and he was not intimidated. He was dedicated to uplifting the race and he was not afraid to throw rocks and hide his hands to get the power structure’s attention to the difficulties and the inequalities of the black community. He dedicated his life to that.”
In 1957, Reeves Sr. and other Black leaders in Florida brought their tax bills to a meeting of White officials in an effort to integrate the beaches of Dade County. “We’re law-abiding, tax-paying citizens,” they said, “and we’re going swimming this afternoon at Crandon Park.” Of course, the men were met with RESISTANCE by White police officers upon arrival, but were eventually able to take a brief dip in the waters unmolested. Garth and his fellow ACTIVISTS put their own safety on the line for THE BENEFIT OF OTHERS. Is there something to be said for finding a CAUSE that you’re willing to risk your life for? A desire to HELP others? Nonetheless, Garth and his companions didn’t act for their own benefit; they did it because they knew that it was RIGHT.
Garth C. Reeves Sr. was a writer, a fighter, a father, and so much more. As part of the group that desegregated public spaces across Florida, his actions undoubtedly changed the course of American history. It may have been his drive in the fight for racial equality; it may have been his hope for a brighter future for all Americans; what’s most important is that Garth didn’t waste a minute of the time he had. Garth couldn’t have known that he’d live to 100, and still he spent his years working to make the world a better, safer place for those around him, and for generations to come. No matter how much time we might have, we can all strive to do the same.
LINKS FOR FURTHER READING:
Miami Herald: Garth Reeves Obituary
The History of Black Miami
1999 Comprehensive Interview with Mr. Garth Reeves
ACTIVITY KITS FOR HIGH SCHOOL AND HIGHER ED